COVID Toes and Rashes
Updated: Aug 6, 2020
As COVID-19 cases alternately surge and wane around the world, health officials continually update what we know about how the virus affects people. One of the more unusual symptoms reported so far is a painful red rash that spreads across the toes. Quickly dubbed “COVID toes,” the condition seems to affect younger people more than older ones and it often appears when there are no other symptoms of COVID-19 present. Here’s what we know about this mysterious skin finding. What are COVID toes? “COVID toes” closely resemble an inflammatory condition called pernio in which one or more toes turn red, swell up, and sometimes blister. Over the course of several days, the redness may darken to a purplish color. Sometimes the blisters resemble a skin reaction to cold called chilblains, and they can spread to the rest of the foot. Your fingers may also be affected with the same swelling, discoloration, and blistering. Sometimes the swelling looks like a small bulb on the toe, and in other cases it causes whitish sores. People who have had COVID toes report that the condition can be itchy and is painful enough to keep them from wearing shoes. Who can have COVID toes? COVID toes affects only a small percentage of people with COVID-19. One of the most unusual aspects of this condition is that people have had COVID toes without testing positive for the coronavirus, and without experiencing any of the other symptoms of the viral infection. At this point, doctors think COVID toes are associated with the virus but may not be caused by it. The inflammation may be part of an immune response to the infection. How is it treated? If lesions and swelling suddenly develop on your fingers or toes, consult your primary care physician or podiatrist to make sure it isn’t a different skin condition that needs a specific course of treatment. In most COVID toe cases no treatment is necessary, as the skin eruptions resolve on their own within in a few weeks. If I have this symptom, should I self-quarantine? According to the information currently available from the Centers for Disease Control symptoms can appear 2 to 14 days after you have been exposed to the coronavirus. Researchers aren’t yet certain when you may be most contagious. Can you get COVID-19 from touching someone’s toes? Being close enough to someone to touch their toes could put you within range to contract the coronavirus by breathing it in. The CDC reports that the coronavirus has been found in blood, stool, urine, and respiratory fluids — but respiratory fluids appear to be the main source of live, transmissible virus particles. If my toes suddenly swell and turn red, should I get tested for COVID-19? Although the CDC and the WHO haven’t listed the toe rash on the official list of major symptoms, researchers recommend that you get tested if you have this skin symptom
The best advice is call your doctor and follow their recommendation for treatment or testing.